Budget Submission by National African Farmer’s Union; Transferring Water Schemes to Municipalities: Input by South Africa Local Government Association

Water and Sanitation

30 March 2003
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Meeting report

WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
31 March 2003
BUDGET SUBMISSION BY NATIONAL AFRICAN FARMER’S UNION; TRANSFERRING WATER SCHEMES TO MUNICIPALITIES: INPUT BY SOUTH AFRICA LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION

Chairperson: Mr J F Van Wyk

Documents handed out:
SALGA submission on Transferring Water Schemes to Municipalities
 
SUMMARY
South Africa Local Government Association (SALGA) and the National African Farmer’s Union (NAFU) briefed the Committee on water resources management. SALGA presented to the Committee their plan for transferring water schemes to municipalities. Municipalities would enter into an agreement with SALGA when they are prepared to take control of their water resources. The Committee was concerned about the ability of certain municipalities to operate their own water schemes. SALGA was confident that the process would work.

NAFU was speaking on behalf of those farmers who have been historically disadvantaged. NAFU informed the Committee of the importance of water reform to black farmers. NAFU argued forcefully for more government assistance to help black farmers who suffer from a lack of water and do not get the assistance they need.

MINUTES
Mr Van Wyk that the South African Association of Water Utilities was not present and would return to the Committee at a later date for their briefing.

The Chairperson noted that the submissions from SALGA and NAFU would supplement the budget hearings that civil organisations gave on March 11.

SALGA on transfer of water schemes to local government
SALGA representative Ms N Mayathula-Khoza delivered SALGA’s slide presentation (see link) which focused on:
- the targets for basic water supply and sanitation by the Department,
- challenges for water services delivery,
- the implementation of  free basic water services (FBWS),
the transfer of DWAF assets,
- the future role of water boards,
- catchment management,
- water services project grants.

Discussion

Questions were asked in two rounds and were answered simultaneously at the end of each round
Mr D Maimane (ANC) asked SALGA to elaborate on the challenges for water services delivery described during the presentation. He wanted to know what has been done to implement the transfer of water schemes to municipalities. The municipalities would need to develop the capacity to provide water.

Mr G McIntosh (DA) stated that this plan signalled a radical change in local government structures. He was concerned about the ability of certain municipalities to operate their own water schemes. What was SALGA planning to do to assist municipalities? Would SALGA train consultants for this purpose?

Mr Van Wyk brought up the component of hygiene education. There has been a problem with delivery. The budget has set a target for 300 000 toilets to be delivered this year. Only half of the target will be reached. How do we increase the capacity to deliver? Would the municipalities be able to deliver the targeted six kiloliters of water? Are the municipalities ready to receive and maintain the water schemes?

Mr S Simmons (NNP) asked about the oversight role and communication between SALGA and the municipalities. He stated that there been cases where municipalities have identified areas with cholera and have asked for money immediately to assist their area. Their request has gone unanswered and people in the municipality die from the disease. How do you deal with requests and complaints from municipalities?

Ms R Ndzanga (ANC) stated that there is a very small potential for sustainable development in farm communities due to the lack of water. She voiced a concern about delivery of water to rural areas. Does SALGA have counsellors to assist in these areas?

Ms Mayathula-Khoza first addressed the issue of communication. She explained that all municipalities are part of SALGA and that SALGA is holding discussions with provinces about issues of service provision. The issues that provinces bring up will be raised with SALGA’s working groups, who will eventually report the issues to SALGA’s executive committee so that they can deal with the problems. She admitted that there was room for improvement in communication and that SALGA was trying to improve their communication structure.

Ms B Pretorius of SALGA answered questions relating to the transfer of water schemes. She clarified that SALGA was not underestimating the task of transferring the water schemes to the municipalities. There are 321 schemes to transfer to 284 municipalities involving over 8 000 personnel. SALGA is confident that the schemes will be implemented in an orderly manner. She noted that time frames have been set for the transfer of the schemes. SALGA is confident that the policy they have created has made the proper provisions for implementing the transfer of water schemes to municipalities.

The establishment of joint response teams will help ensure that Treasury and provincial and local governments will all work together throughout the implementation process.

A municipality will receive the responsibility over their own water scheme when they signal that they are ready. SALGA is not asking all municipalities to transfer at once. They must be ready to accept the transfer before SALGA agrees to give them control. There are some municipalities who are resistant to transfer in this fashion, but SALGA has informed them that this is the process that has been developed by the highest level of authority and explains that the process is a good one.

Mr Simmons asked if SALGA had any power of enforcement over municipalities.

Ms Pretorius answered that SALGA is committed to improving service delivery. A municipality may look at this plan and think it is impractical, but this is the proper way to ensure water delivery. The municipality is the proper sphere of government to control the water schemes.

Turning to the issue of sanitation, Ms Pretorius noted that provinces have had a problem with the subsidy for improving health and hygiene. Most provinces related that they would like to use the entire subsidy for infrastructure building. SALGA wanted to debate the proper way to proceed for helping health and hygiene.

SALGA noted that municipalities had a constitutional obligation to operate their own water schemes. SALGA is providing the proper conditions for the municipalities to do so. Many poorer municipalities do not have the capability to come up with a business plan. Municipalities should have support to help them with this task. We need to stop looking at local governments as a different sphere and work together with them to ensure the proper water supply.

SALGA has been conducting a study of all 284 municipalities to gauge the physical state of those municipalities and compile a complete database.

Mr Maimane commented on the sanitation program. The problem of sanitation applies to most people. There does not seem to be any improvement in this area.

Ms Ndzanga asked if SALGA can give counsellors enough training to help municipalities draft their business plans without enlisting outside help. Can the local offices be equipped with faxes, photocopiers, and computers so that they can communicate?

Mr J Arendse (ANC) was concerned about free water and asked if SALGA could fulfil its targeted approach. He wanted to make sure that everyone who has access to water has free water. Furthermore, in each municipality there must be people to draw up the business plan so that they can receive the proper funds.

Ms Mayathula-Khoza noted that SALGA must look at conditions and then provide the proper service. SALGA has committed to having well-supplied municipalities. She explained that there has been local restructuring since 1995, including many development programs.

Some municipalities have not been able to participate in these development programs. She stated that counsellors must have access to offices so that people may have access to the counsellors. Although they need these facilities, municipalities cannot afford them yet and hopefully ongoing developmental programs will assist with this.

The Chairperson thanked SALGA for its input and noted that everyone is part of the same government.

National African Farmer’s Union (NAFU)
Mr M Matlala, Deputy President, addressed the Committee regarding the condition of farmers. He thanked the Committee for giving him the opportunity to speak but was disconcerted that the invitation to the Committee came very late.

For the 255 000 farmers that NAFU represents, water is life. NAFU should work closely with the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry to ensure that farmers have adequate water. Black Economic Empowerment is receiving a lot of attention but more needs to be done to help farmers.

Very little substantive action has been taken toward helping the black farmers that have been the worst off. The situation of farmers is not acceptable. Increasing subsidies for farmers has not been a sufficient measure. There are very few emerging black farmers that have been enabled due to government action.

While white farmers add R22 billion to South Africa’s GDP, black farmers account for virtually nothing. We must appeal to the legislature to alleviate this situation.

For black farmers, this has been a painful experience despite their readiness to produce and create their own job opportunities. A large part of the problem is that black farmers have been underrepresented. NAFU is filling that role.

Land reform problems are beginning to take shape. There needs to be a better financial situation in place to assist black farmers. As of now, a farmer who borrows money from Land Bank and defaults on his payment can have his farm repossessed by the bank.

Black farmers cannot farm without water. White commercial farmers seem to get the benefits of government programs. NAFU would like an audit conducted to find out where the government’s resources have gone and to find out if it would be appropriate to reallocate water resources.

Black farmers are not educated and literate in all respects. NAFU would like to accommodate their participation. A plan should be made so that people can have access to technology. Further, there is often a language barrier that government should be aware of. Civil servants should be conscious of these difference and black farmers should be treated with respect and dignity.

The government cannot support well established farmers at the expense of others. Present water management strategies need to change. Emerging black farmers are more exposed to the ill effects of droughts. The assistance programs are difficult and black farmers are not helped in times of drought. The imbalance of water resources calls for decisive political intervention.

The R28 million allocated for subsidies is insufficient. A focused audit must be executed to discover where the money has been allocated.

Not enough attention is brought to this severe problem that black farmer’s deal with everyday. Legislation allocating water resources should be reconsidered.

Discussion

Mr Van Wyk hoped that this would be the beginning of more interaction between NAFU and Parliament. He apologised to NAFU for informing them late of their opportunity to address the Committee. He expressed regret that he had to leave the meeting, but he explained that he had a prior engagement and left Mr Maimane as chairperson.

Chief C J Maluleke-Hlaneki (ANC) thanked NAFU for their presentation and said that the Committee needed to broaden their lines of communication with stakeholders such as NAFU. He appreciated the feedback that NAFU provided.

Ms Mayathula-Khoza of SALGA stated that SALGA has an interest in the issues NAFU discussed. A process of integration and co-operation needs to be devised so that SALGA and NAFU can work together.

Mr Matlala stated that NAFU has been calling for unity. The transformation of agriculture would be a difficult task. Finance is needed at the lowest level. Reuniting black and white farmers is the goal of the future but this could not be accomplished in a year or two.

Mr Maimane thanked NAFU for the “explosive” presentation. The meeting was adjourned.

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